People will now be able to access medicinal cannabis in Ireland in certain circumstances.
The Government has announced it will fund the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme, which was introduced into legislation in 2019.
The medicine will be available through a consultant for people suffering muscle spasms from MS, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or those who have severe epilepsy.
The first stage of the programme was to have potential suppliers apply to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to have their cannabis-based products assessed for suitability for medical use.
Currently four products have been assessed as acceptable by the HPRA. Further products are currently being assessed and if they are found to be acceptable, these products will be added to the schedule of products for inclusion in the programme.
The HSE will establish and maintain an electronic register for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme to facilitate the enrolment and recording of certain data including patient identifiers (in anonymised format), prescribers enrolled in the programme, as well as prescribed/supplied medical cannabis products.
Pending the commencement of the Access Programme clinicians and their patients have been availing of a licence under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016 in order to prescribe and administer cannabis-based products. The commencement of the Access Programme will not affect these patients.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use — A Scientific Review’.
“Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care. It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.”